Former GM Predicts ‘Pressure’ on Broncos’ Sean Payton Amid Looming $85M Decision

Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton could face increased scrutiny this season.

The front office is already dealing with salary cap issues. They are also considering absorbing an $85 million dead cap hit to rid themselves of Russell Wilson this offseason.

If they do, former Minnesota Vikings general manager Jeff Diamond suggests the head coach could be under increased scrutiny. For Diamond — who was grading the trade to acquire Payton and gave the move a “C” for Denver — the head coach’s tenure has been up and down.

“Payton had a rollercoaster season,” Diamond wrote for 33rd Team on January 26. “Wilson rebounded under Payton (going from the 27th-rated quarterback to eighth-rated) until the latter part of the season when he had a three-interception game against Houston and was benched the last two weeks (in part to protect the team against an injury).

“Wilson is now a trade-or-release candidate in the offseason, in which case Payton will be under pressure to find a quality replacement.”

Diamond gave the New Orleans Saints an “A” for the trio of draft picks they received.

Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton spoke to reporters on Friday about Russell Wilson’s benching — and maintained his story about it being a football move…

Moments later, Broncos quarterback, Russell Wilson, told the TRUTH… Wilson showed the upmost respect and…

— HarrietEve9 (@HarrietEve9) December 30, 2023

The 37-year-old Wilson is still under contract for five more seasons at $242.6 million.

He was moving the ball on offense during the Broncos’ 1-5 stretch to start the season. He completed 65.9% of his passes for 1,305 yards, 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. But the offense was not putting up enough points.

Denver averaged 21.5 points while the defense surrendered 33.3 points during that span. Their defensive numbers are skewed by the Miami Dolphins scoring 70 points in Week 3.

Wilson was better during their five-game winning streak. He passed for 894 yards on 71.6% completions with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. But he had regressed over three of his last four starts before Payton benched him. There were also issues between Payton and Wilson from the outset of their pairing.

The Broncos now have to decide the best way to proceed.

Post-June 1 Cut ‘Most Likely’ Outcome for Russell Wilson

GettyRussell Wilson #3 of the Denver Broncos.

“There is a looming March 17 deadline for the Broncos,” The Athletic’s Nick Kosmider wrote on January 25. “If Wilson … is still on the roster on that date, his $37 million salary for the 2025 season becomes fully guaranteed.

“If the Broncos decide to cut Wilson before that date — trying to facilitate a trade would be another option — they’ll next have to figure out how to digest the $85 million dead money hit that would follow such a move. The most likely path for Denver would be to divide the hit across two seasons by way of a post-June 1 designation.”

Wilson has been linked to the Pittsburgh Steelers and even the Las Vegas Raiders as potential landing spots if he is cut by the Broncos.

Perhaps there is enough interest for a trade, allowing Denver to avoid losing him for free.

Jarrett Stidham ‘Very Confident’ About Being Broncos’ QB1

GettyJarrett Stidham #4 of the Denver Broncos.

The Broncos went with Jarrett Stidham over the final two weeks of the season. He completed 60.6% of his passes for 496 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Stidham also absorbed seven sacks in what was his first action of the season, though.

He came out of the experience feeling good about his prospects.

“I’m very confident that I can be the guy for us next year. I have no doubts about that,” Stidham told reporters during his season-ending availability on January 8. “But I’m going to continue to you know continue to work as hard as possible this offseason and learn as much as possible, and that sort of thing. I’m excited for the opportunity, for sure.”

Ben DiNucci, who hasn’t thrown a pass in the regular season since 2020, joins Stidham on the roster, setting the stage for another quarterback – veteran or rookie – to join the fray.

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